There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview the South Region’s 1-16 matchup between tournament favorite Kentucky and the comeback kids from Western Kentucky.
Kentucky-Western Kentucky Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #1 Kentucky v #16 Western Kentucky in South Region
- Kentucky-Western Kentucky Date: Thursday 3/15
- Kentucky-Western Kentucky Tip Time: 6:50 ET
- Kentucky-Western Kentucky Location: Louisville
- Kentucky-Western Kentucky TV: TBS
- Kentucky-Western Kentucky Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery
- Kentucky-Western Kentucky Point Spread: Kentucky -24.5
- Tickets: Kentucky-Western Kentucky Tickets
- Tickets: All Louisville Sessions
- Tickets: South Regional Tickets in Boston
Kentucky-Western Kentucky Analysis and Prediction
First off, if you’re picking the first four game, go with Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers have a number of impressive young players like Derrick Gordon and George Fant, and the team has improved significantly since Ray Harper took over as coach in the middle of the year.
Editor’s note: Andy’s prediction of the Western Kentucky game was left in to show you a good example of his college basketball badassery.
Aside from that, I’m not so sure that Kentucky couldn’t knock of both off their potential foes even if they were forced to play them both at the same time.
Predicted Winner: Kentucky
Kentucky Wildcats Team Capsule
- Conference: SEC
- Record: 32-2 (16-0 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 9-1
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 11-2
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Alabama, Florida (3), Kansas, Lamar, Louisville, Loyola (MD), North Carolina, Vanderbilt (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Indiana, Vanderbilt
- Player to Watch: Anthony Davis (6’11″ F, Fr.) – 14.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 4.6 bpg, 1.4 spg, 64.3 FG%
Kentucky Bottoms Line:
The Wildcats earned the overall top seed and will be picked by most pundits to win it all – and rightfully so. Kentucky finished in the Top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency and steamrolled all comers in the SEC. On offense, the Wildcats are in the Top 25 in two-point shooting, turnover rate, and offensive rebounding percentage and have a number of offensive weapons.
In all, six players score at least 9.4 points per game, led by freshman phenom Anthony Davis who is a strong candidate for National Player of the Year. He averaged a double-double and shoots a high percentage, but his shot-blocking ability is a game-changer on the defensive end. Fellow frosh Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a fiery, do-it-all competitor who will do whatever it takes to win. Sophomore Terrence Jones gives the Wildcats yet another talented frontcourt player, and if he brings his A-game, look out. The backcourt features freshman Marquis Teague, who has really improved at the point over the course of the season, and lights out shooter Doron Lamb, who hits over 45 percent from beyond the arc.
For all the discussion about Kentucky’s weapons on offense, they are just as impressive on defense. They boast the top-ranked block percentage, two-point defense, and effective field goal percentage defense to go with a Top 10 opponents’ free throw rate.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Team Capsule
- Conference: Sun Belt
- Record: 15-18 (7-9 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 7-3
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 0-4
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: None
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Louisville, Murray State, VCU (2)
- Player to Watch: Derrick Gordon (6’2″ G, Fr.) – 11.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.1 apg
Western Kentucky Bottoms Line:
To say it’s been an eventful season for the Hilltoppers would be an understatement. Their coach was fired during the middle of the season, and the team finished under .500 in the Sun Belt. However, a young team caught fire at the right time and won four games in four days to take win the conference tournament.
Freshman guard Derrick Gordon leads the team in scoring and rebounding while also consistently getting to the free throw line. His shooting percentages would likely earn him the label as a volume shooter, but he’s definitely exciting to watch. Fellow frosh George Fant finished second to Gordon in points and rebounds, and he can contribute with offensive rebounds as well as blocked shots.
Led by Gordon, Western Kentucky ranks just inside the Top 75 in free throw rate, but their overall offensive efficiency is pretty poor. On the defensive end, things are better but still not great, as the Hilltoppers ranks outside the Top 100 on all four factors and rank lower than 200th in defensive rebounding percentage and opponents’ free throw rate.
Related: Jump to our South Region Bracket Breakdown
See our other individual game previews:
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- East Region: #4 Wisconsin v #13 Montana
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- East Region: #6 Cincinnati v #11 Texas
- East Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
- Midwest Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama
- Midwest Region: #6 San Diego State v #11 NC State
- Midwest Region: #3 Georgetown v #14 Belmont